IT'S NOT too far off, that time of year when parents and children say goodbye, and the University welcomes its newest class. Several thousand students will begin their college careers in Charlottesville. Among these, many will know exactly what they want to do at the University; others will have no clue. But there is one think that most first years will have in common: They will start drinking--heavily.
To be sure, many incoming students already are experienced drinkers, while a significant percentage of them will abstain from alcohol altogether while at the University. But parents, rest assured, the overwhelming percentage of your sons and daughters are about to partake in behavior that you may object to very strongly. Alcohol does not have to create dissension between students and parents, however, so long as both sides handle the matter with mutual respect and honesty. Students shouldn't be afraid of what their parents might think about their underage drinking, and parents should trust their kids to do what they feel is right, without undue guilt trips.
As this is the summer mailout issue of The Cavalier Daily, many new University students and parents eagerly will read up on the latest news at the school they are about to attend. I have a unique opportunity to speak to incoming students and parents at the same time about an issue that undoubtedly will be a topic of discussion (and denial) in the homes of many incoming first years.
Part of the apprehension on this issue stems from the part of the country where the University resides. Virginia is a Southern state, and follows stricter guidelines regarding the sale of alcohol than many of its Northern counterparts. In North Carolina, for example, customers at liquor stores (all state owned) must fill out a form when making purchases over a certain amount. Contrast that with New York, where they sell alcoholic beverages on the Long Island Rail Road platforms at Penn Station (reason enough to move there, in my book).
Goodness knows, I love the sauce. Not to mention the fact that hard drinking is a staple of American college culture, whether University administrators like it or not. But many parents have objections to their children partaking in alcohol. Fortunately, mine do not. But the same cannot be said of many parents who drop their kids off on move-in day and leave Charlottesville with more than a little worry.
Religious objections to drinking certainly are reason enough to abstain. But the issue in many University families is not a religious objection, but a more general unease among parents about alcohol consumption. Worrying about your kid's drinking is one of those counterintuitive fears that only parents know. Many of the same parents who disapprove of their kids' drinking did the exact same thing when they were in college 30 years ago, yet have a problem with their own kids following in their footsteps. Sorry, but the "do as I say, not as I did" argument will not cut it with most new University students, nor should it. After all, if your students are mature and intelligent enough to attend this University, they should have no problem deciding how to enjoy themselves.
A student's relationship with his parents changes drastically in college. No longer is he the subject of frequent (in some cases constant) scrutiny of where he is going, what time he will be back, etc. Students will find (at least, I did) that conversations with their parents gradually become more sophisticated and even adult.
And that's really what college is about, isn't it? For the first time, you, the students, not your parents, are the primary decision-maker in your life. While parents still play an important role in many aspects of your life, they no longer are your mental compass. That's your job now. And that's what brings us back to my favorite topic: alcohol.
Among my friends' parents, there were varying degrees of acceptance regarding alcohol consumption. Some, like mine, didn't mind it, so long as such drinking would not get anyone hurt or into trouble. On the other side of the spectrum, there are parents who would experience catatonic shock if they believed their child participated in such debauchery.
Letting go of your parents or children is, for most families, the most difficult part of the first-year experience. Parents undoubtedly experience much worry now that they can no longer filter what comes into the minds of their kids, and new students face the perils of homesickness and meeting many new people, in addition to all the academic stresses. Living away from home and taking on the "real world" is a fundamental step in everyone's life. Parents have to accept the fact that they are no longer the defining force in their kids' lives, and students have to assert their right to do what they want (within reason). After all, if your parents trust you enough to go to class every day, shouldn't they trust you to drink "responsibly"?
(Timothy Duboff is a rising third-year College student.)